A few days ago, the Army Times reported that a soldier was given a religious accommodation to wear a beard, in deference to his “Heathen; Norse Pagan” beliefs.
Now, I’m all for religious accommodation when it’s needed, but I confess I’m not sure where the soldier in question, or his superiors, got the idea that there is some sort of religious compunction to wear a beard in Heathenry.
If anything, the wearing of a beard seems quite inconsistent in contemporary art works. In such things as the Bayeux Tapestry, there are figures with beards, mustaches, and those who are clean-shaven. The Lewis Chessmen are similarly shown having various styles of facial hair, or none at all. The Torslunda Helmet Plate (at the top of this article) clearly shows a man in a horned helmet, possibly Odin due to the punched-out left eye, without a beard. The Salians (the tribe whence the Merovingians came) were noted for their long hair, but not their beards, while the Franks were known for short hair. The Langobards, of course, got their name from their long beards, but it is that very thing that makes them distinctive and thus unusual.
Now, I am not an expert on religious accommodations in the US military, but it would seem to me that what’s being granted is a personal exemption. If having a beard was necessary, we’d certainly see it more consistently in the contemporary art, and have it mentioned in the sources.